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Pre-Reading Activity

Brainstorming: Think about your high school. If you were to categorize the student population, what groups would you create (examples: Band Geeks, Cheerleaders, Athletes, Sci-Fi Geeks, Goody-Goodies, etc.). What do you think the people are like in each group?

Writing Prompt: Where do you fit into your student population? Are you a member of a specific group or do you socialize with students in many different groups? Are you happy with your place in high school society or do you wish you belonged to a different group? Write in paragraph form and thoroughly explain your answer.



Study Guide for Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


First Marking Period

Welcome to Merryweather High

  1. What is Melinda’s mood as the book begins?  As you read the first section of Speak list reasons why you believe she might be feeling this way.
  2. Melinda categorizes the Merryweather students into several groups: jocks, cheerleaders, human waste, suffering artists, Goths, etc.  How would you categorize the students of Sachem High School?
  3. Melinda repeatedly alludes to an event that occurred in her recent past.  What do you think may have happened to her?


  1. Why do you think Melinda has such difficult speaking to Mr. Neck when he confronts her during lunch?


  1. What does the word sanctuary mean?
  2. Describe Melinda’s art class.  What is the room like?  What is her teacher, Mr. Freeman like?
  3. How might Mr. Freeman’s last name work on a symbolic level in Speak?

Home. Work.

  1. Describe Melina’s room.  Why do you think it looks like this?  What does Melinda’s room suggest about her character?
  2. What does Melinda do with the mirror in her bedroom?  Why do you think she does this?  What might this action symbolize?


  1. What are the different meanings for the word burrow?
  2. How does Melinda use the neglected janitor’s closet?  Why does she need this room?

Devil’s Destroy

  1. What new information is revealed about Melinda’s past?
  2. Based on this revelation, what do you think may have happened to Melinda?

The Marthas

  1. Who are the Marthas?  What are they know for?


  1. With the introduction of IT, more is revealed about Melinda’s past.  What do you think really happened over the summer?


Second Marking Period

Closet Space

  1. How does Melinda fix up her closet?  Why do you think she does this?
  2. What does Melinda do to the mirror in the closet?  What do you think is the symbolic meaning behind her actions?
  3. Why do you think Melinda is having difficulty talking?

All Together Now

  1. What might be significant about the words Melinda decided to conjugate for her Spanish homework?  Why do you think she chose these particular words?

Giving Thanks

  1. What is Melinda’s home life like?  What is her mother like?  Her father?


  1. Describe Melinda’s turkey bone art project? 
  2. What mood does Melinda’s art project evoke in Mr. Freeman?  In Ivy?
  3. How do you think Melinda’s art project symbolically reflects her inner feelings?  Explain your answer.

Peeled and Cored

  1. What memory does the apple evoke for Melinda?
  2. How does this memory contrast with her present situation?

Dead Frogs

  1. Why do you think Melinda passes out while dissecting the frog?


Third Marking Period

Cold Weather and Buses

  1. Why do you think Melinda compares herself to a bunny rabbit when she encounters Andy Evans on the street?
  2. In what ways is her behavior rabbit like?
  3. Why do you think Melinda responds in this fashion to Andy’s appearance?

Lunch Doom

  1. What does Heather tell Melinda at lunch?  Why?
  2. Do you think Heather did the right thing?  Defend your answer.

Our Lady of the Waiting Room

  1. Why do you think Melinda was drawn to the hospital?
  2. How is Melinda’s behavior a cry for help?  List at least four examples of things Melinda does that are signs she needs someone to help her.  Why do you think she is getting any help?


  1. How does Melinda’s tree art reflect her inner emotions?
  2. How does Melinda’s tree art progress throughout the novel?
  3. What artistic techniques does Melinda employ to capture the essence of a tree?

Hall of Mirrors

  1. What is Melinda’s emotional state like when she is trying on clothes?
  2. What does Melinda see when she looks into the mirror?

A Night to Remember

  1. What do we learn really happened to Melinda at the night of the summer party?


Fourth Marking Period

My Life As A Spy

  1. Why is Melinda spying on Rachel?

Thin Atmosphere

  1. How does Melinda warn Rachel about Andy?

Advice From A Smart Mouth

  1. What advice does David Petrakis give Melinda about speaking up?  Why?

Real Spring

  1. What does Melinda’s yard work symbolize metaphorically about her inner life?
  2. How does Melinda’s raking help the tree?
  3. How might a tree work symbolically to represent life?
  4. How might a tree work symbolically to represent Melinda’s life specifically?

Little Writing on the Wall

  1. What does Melinda write on the bathroom stall?  Why?

Communication 101

  1. Why does Melinda finally reveal the truth to Rachel?
  2. How does Rachel react to Melinda’s revelation?

Chat Room

  1. What does Ivy show Melinda in the bathroom?
  2.  How does this make Melinda feel?

Pruning / Prowling

  1. How is Melinda’s mood changing?
  2. How is her behavior changing?
  3. Why are these changes taking place?


  1. What happened at the prom?


  1. Why doesn’t Melinda need her secret closet anymore?
  2. What happens when Melinda gets attacked?
  3. How does Melinda react differently this time?

Final Cut

  1. How does Melinda’s final tree art reflect her own life?
  2. What symbol of hope does Melinda add to her final piece of tree art?
  3. How does Melinda’s reputation change once the truth is revealed?


Symbolism is when an object or symbol stands for more than its actual meaning. For instance a heart stands for love and a four-leaf clover stands for good luck.

Directions: Use your knowledge of Speak to figure out what each of the following symbols means in the novel.


What does this object represent in the novel?

Melinda’s turkey bone art project

Example: The turkey carcass represents Melinda who has suffered a great deal of pain and anguish recently (much like the turkey must have felt while her parents were trying to cook it). The turkey bones are now raw and exposed which is how Melinda feels. The Barbie head has tape over its mouth, this symbolizes the fact that Melinda feels like she cannot speak or communicate her troubles with anyone. The knife and fork represent the threat of danger around Melinda; she feels as if she is being torn apart.























New York State Standard: Writing to express personal opinions


Melinda and her classmates had to write an essay in their English class. The assignment was to write an essay about “The Best Lost Homework Excuse Ever.” Your assignment is to write a creative and detailed essay about the best lost/late homework excuse you can think of.


Think about all the excuses you or your friends have ever given your teacher for lost or late homework. What excuses were the most creative? What excuses worked or made the teacher laugh? Lost and late homework is often the topic of television shows and movies as well. Think about the shows you watch and some of the creative excuses you’ve seen on screen. What excuses were the most detailed?

Write down some possible ideas for your excuse. Remember, a good, creative excuse will have several steps to it. Think about the entire course of events that led up to your homework being late or lost.


This essay should be written in first person. It should be approximately 350 to 400 words. Write it according to the following outline:

#1- Write an introductory paragraph where you will want to mention the assignment that is late

and the class/teacher you are explaining the excuse to.

#2- The body of your essay should include several paragraphs explaining all the details of the excuse. When a new problem occurs, begin a new paragraph. Try to separate the steps that lead up to the homework being lost or late into their own paragraph. Remember, a good excuse will contain several attempts at getting the assignment done, or finding the homework, but with a new problem that prevents this from happening in each paragraph.

#3- Your essay should have a conclusion that contains the end to your story. This should include the last step—your arrival at school. You will also want to mention the assignment, teacher, and class again to remind the reader of what it was that was late.



Authors use figurative language to create a picture in the readers’ minds. Most of the time, the author is comparing what is really happening with something people are familiar with, allowing the reader to make a connection with what is happening in the novel. Figurative language also allows the author to express in more a powerful way what is occurring in the novel. Some literary elements that are used to create figurative language are:

Simile: a comparison between two unlike things using the words like or as.

Metaphor: a comparison between two unlike things without using the words like or as.

Personification: giving human qualities to non-living objects.


Activity One: Read the examples of figurative language from Speak listed below. Label each example with an S for simile, an M for metaphor, or a P for personification.

1. ____ Words climb up my throat.

2. ____ I dive into the stream of fourth-period lunch students and swim down the hall to the cafeteria.

3. ____ I have been dropped like a hot Pop Tart on a cold kitchen floor.

4. ____ We are all dressed in down jackets and vests, so we collide and roll like bumper cars at the state fair.

5. ____There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs.

6. ____ Her skin is a flat gray color, like underwear washed so many times it’s about to fall apart.

7. ____ All the anger whistles out of me like I’m a popped balloon.

8. ____ Lights wink on, the fountains jump, music plays behind the giant ferns, and the mall is open.

9. ____ The card is still there, a white patch of hope with my name on it.

10. ____ I chomp my sandwich and it barfs mustard on my shirt.

11. ____ Her voice sounds like a cold engine that won’t turn over.

12. ____ I am a deer frozen in the headlights or a tractor trailer.

Check your answers: http://www.fischer.0catch.com/Poetry2/indentify.htm

Activity Two: Use your book to find additional examples of figurative language you have identified while reading Speak. Indicate the page number where you found each quotation.

Simile: _________________________________________________________________________

Metaphor: ______________________________________________________________________


Activity Three: Select an example of figurative language found in Speak and illustrate it. You may use an example from this sheet or another example from the novel. In the space provided attempt to draw what the author is saying literally, making the illustration humorous and showing how figurative language helps readers picture what is going on. For extra credit you may create a poster sized drawing of the saying. Be sure to include the actual quotation at the bottom of your drawing. Extra credit projects may not be completed in pen or pencil.



Review of Second Marking Period

1. What book does Melinda read on Halloween instead of going trick-or treating?

2. Describe Melinda’s lips.

3. The school has decided to change the school mascot four times. List all three of the previous

mascots that have been used and explain why the school felt they had to change each one.




4. What author has the school district banned from the school library?

5. Explain why David Petrakis walks out of Mr. Neck’s class. Give enough details in your answer to fully explain why he is upset.

6. Describe the art project Melinda makes with the turkey bones.

7. Why does David Petrakis video his social studies class?

8. Why is Melinda so overwhelmed by the Christmas gift her parents gave her?

9. Who is the “IT” Melinda refers to?

Written Response to "Code Breaking"

In “Code Breaking” Melinda discusses her English class where the students are reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In The Scarlet Letter there is a great deal of symbolism. The book, which is set in colonial New England, takes places in a conservative, religious, Puritan community. The main character, Hester, becomes pregnant in the absence of her husband. This is a mortal sin in this community. Hester is arrested and punished by the town. During this era punishment for adultery was extreme. Hester is shunned by the community (no one will speak to her, associate with her, or be friends with her) and she is forced to wear a scarlet letter "A" on the exterior of all of her clothing. The "A" stands for adultery and is meant to mark her as a sinful, shamed woman.

Melinda identifies with Hester. She, too, feels shunned by her community. She imagines that she has a giant "S" on her clothing. Write 2 – 3 paragraphs about the following:

  • Why does Melinda relate with Hester?
  • What would the S stand for on Melinda’s clothing?
  • How do both women suffer from shame over what has happened to them?
  • Should Melinda feel like Hester? Should she feel shame?

“I Am” Poem

Complete this “I am” poem. You may select any character from the book to do this poem about. Be sure to write from his or her point of view and think about the things he or she would feel. You may use some short one word answers, but do not make each line only a few words. You should try to provide support from the novel to really develop this poem so that it reveals information and insight about the character you select.

I am (2 characteristics your character has)

I wonder (something your character wonders)

I hear (something real or imaginary your character hears)

I see (something real or imaginary your character sees)

I want (something your character desires)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)


I pretend (something your character pretends to do)

I feel (something real or imaginary your character feels emotionally)

I touch (something real or imaginary your character would touch physically)

I worry (something your characters worries about)

I cry (something that makes your character upset)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)


I understand (something your character knows)

I say (something your character believes in)

I dream (something your character would dream about)

I try (something your character makes an effort to do)

I hope (something your character hopes for)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

Be sure to:

-Type your poem.

-Check for spelling / grammar errors.

Extra Credit:

-Decorate your poem with a drawing or collage related to the person you have chosen to write about.


-Write a second poem.


Friday, December 8, 2007

Activity One: In your writing avoid overusing words. Also, avoid using vague, non-specific language whenever possible. Make the following sentences better by changing the underlined word and writing a replacement in the space provided.

1. Bad things happened to Melinda. ________________________

2. Bad things happened to Melinda. ________________________

3. Melinda disliked school so she cut class a lot. ________________________

4. Melinda disliked school so she cut class a lot. ________________________

5. Melinda was just able to survive her freshman year. ________________________

6. It is hard to survive in high school with no friends. ________________________

7. Melinda wanted more friends. ________________________

8. There were some horrible people to deal with. ________________________

9. Some horrible things were going on. ________________________

10. It was definitely a difficult time to live through. ________________________

11. It was definitely a difficult time to live through. ________________________

12. It was really scary for Melinda at the party. ________________________

13. She just wanted to get out alive. ________________________

14. Melinda wanted to be happy like everyone else. ________________________

15. Melinda’s life is very sad. ________________________

16. Melinda’s life is very sad. ________________________

Activity Two: Now make a list of synonyms (words that mean the same thing or something very similar) for the following overused words.


A lot



Speak Vocabulary Group #1

  1. Burrow: a hole or hideout animals use to take shelter; a hideout
  2. Demerit: a mark against someone for misconduct
  3. Errant: straying fro the right course
  4. Floundering: at act clumsily or in confusion
  5. Inciting: to sir, encourage, or egg on
  6. Inconspicuous: not noticeable; invisible
  7. Indoctrination: teaching someone to accept an idea or principle without criticism
  8. Pseudo: pretend; fake; false
  9. Sanctuary: a sacred place offering refuge or safety
  10. Wan: dark; gloomy; pale in color; sickly; unhappy

Speak Vocabulary Group 1 Activity
Use the vocabulary terms from the word box to correctly complete each sentence.











1. I don’t have time to answer. The lights dim and the ______________________ of principles begins.

2. My first class is biology. I can’t find it and get my first ______________________.

3. I scan the cafeteria for a friendly face or an ______________________ and discreet corner.

4. Art, a ______________________ and comfortable place, follows lunch, like dream follows nightmare.

5. Principal Principal spots another ______________________ student in the hall, a stray in the hall.

6. Rachel’s smudging mascara under her eyes to look exhausted and ______________________.

7. Just a ______________________ -friend, disposable friend. Friend as accessory.

8. My stuffed rabbits inhabit my room; and now I have the closet as a ____________________ to hide in.

9. And they cheer on our boys, ______________________ them to violence and, we hope, victory.

10. We are all ______________________, trying to find our clumsy way amid the confusion of school.

Speak Vocabulary Group #2

  1. Degrading: humiliating; disgrace; dishonor
  2. Demure: shy, modest, coy
  3. Dormant: inactive; lying asleep; not erupting
  4. Drone: a remote control mechanism
  5. Refurbished: to make clean, bright, or fresh again; renovate
  6. Retreat: to withdraw or go back
  7. Revolutionary: support for radical change or innovation
  8. Sensibilities: emotions or feelings
  9. Subjectivity: decisions based on personal feelings rather than facts
  10. Xenophobic: unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners

Speak Vocabulary Group #3

  1. Asphyxiated: chocked; suffocated; smothered
  2. Bigoted: intolerant of any other beliefs or opinions
  3. Conundrum: a difficult problem; a dilemma
  4. Dense: acting dull or slow-witted; thinking in a stupid manner
  5. Dynamics: the social, intellectual, or physical forces that characterize a system or group
  6. Imbeciles: a group of stupid or silly people
  7. Reluctance: unwillingness; resisting
  8. Submission: surrendering power to another; acting in a way of meekness
  9. Vespiary: a nest of social wasps
  10. Wistful: pensive; thoughtful in a sad way; longing, yearning

Speak Vocabulary Group #4

  1. Conscience: the inner sense of what is right or wrong
  2. Consistency: keeping the same behavior, form, pattern, or principles
  3. Delinquency: wrongful; illegal; failure to fulfill a duty or obligation
  4. Foster: something that nourishes or cares for; encouraging
  5. Genetics: science of heredity and genes
  6. Incriminate: to make someone appear guilty in a crime
  7. Momentum: force or speed of movement; motion
  8. Muse: something or someone that is inspiring to an artist
  9. Recessive: going back; receding; a gene that does not produce
  10. Tenacious: persistent; stubborn; vicious; not easily pulled apart

Speak Vocabulary Group #5

  1. Allegedly: something that has been described but not proven
  2. Banished: forced to leave; drive away; expelled
  3. Coaxes: to persuade by pleading or flattery
  4. Devious: not straightforward; shifty or crooked
  5. Hazing: to abuse newcomers with humiliating tricks and ridicule
  6. Leper: a person who is rejected; an outcast
  7. Maladjusted: poorly adjusted in one’s social circumstances
  8. Pruning: to cut off, clear, or remove
  9. Reputation: how the public views or regards an individual
  10. Vague: not clear or definite; hazy